Ballooning failure at Hay on Wye

Illus. By Rob Davies

This is an account of a local incident from the Brecon County Times dated 14th August 1891.

"The failure of Professor Shipley to carry out his intended ascent by balloon and descent by parachute, on Saturday last, was a general disappointment. A large number of persons had flocked into town to see his serial voyage, and on the collapse of the balloon the feelings expressed towards the Professor were not the kindest. We think, however, a proper knowledge of the facts will satisfy any reasonable person, that under the circumstances an ascent was impossible.

Professor Shipley true to his engagement arrived at Hay on Friday, and repaired the damaged balloon. On Saturday morning everything was in order for the ascent. Shortly after 11 o'clock the process of inflating the balloon was commenced and in an hour it was charged with sufficient gas for the Professor's purpose. The capacity of the Hay gasometers is 12,000 cubic feet, a quantity equal to that required to properly inflate the balloon. It will be at once seen from this fact that having exhausted the supply of gas should any mishap happen there was no chance of re-inflating the balloon.

A most unfortunate mishap did happen. The balloon was successfully filled and the professor was actually ready for the ascent. He gave the signal to those who held the balloon in leash to "let go." They did not all do so promptly, but the balloon rose a little, and presenting as it did a large surface to the wind, it was blown partially over the small ornamental plantation. It was drawn back into position and another attempt was made with like result. Professor Shipley this time got entangled in the fencing and the cordage, the latter even encircling his neck; and a man named Evans was caught in the cordage and drawn over by the balloon into the plantation. Had the balloon risen at that moment the consequences to the Professor and the man Evans must have been most serious.

The mouth of the balloon being released from leash shot upwards and discharged its contents into the air. In a very short time it had put on its holiday appearance again, and lay on the ground waiting to be packed up. The people crowded on the green and elsewhere, and not in the immediate vicinity of the gas works moralised on the Professor's profession and failure. He had very little sympathy at his non-success, and got very little credit for all his exertions with the outside public."

Geoff Ridyard